Gwinnett officials held a ceremony and celebration Tuesday afternoon at the Stone Mountain Tennis Center, which hosted tennis events during Atlanta’s 1996 Olympics. The venue will be torn down and redeveloped. TYLER ESTEP / TYLER.ESTEP@AJC.COM

Demolition begins at Gwinnett’s Olympic eyesore — but what comes next?

They spoke about the past, shared dreams about the future, then watched happily as a trackhoe tore through a brick and concrete building at the front of the Stone Mountain Tennis Center.

Officials from Gwinnett County gathered Tuesday afternoon at the once-proud venue that’s been left to grow derelict and die since hosting events during Atlanta’s 1996 Summer Olympics.

For the 24-acre site off Bermuda Road and U.S. 78, it’s game, set and — hopefully soon, officials say — match.

“I hope y’all have been looking forward to this day as much as I have,” Evermore Community Improvement District director Jim Brooks said.

Gwinnett County only obtained the 7,200-seat, 15-court tennis venue late last year, more than two decades after tennis greats Andre Agassi and Lindsay Davenport won Olympic gold there. But Tuesday’s gathering and “ceremonial demolition” was a precursor to a complete tear-down of the facility and, officials hope, a rebirth of both the property and the surrounding area.

They’ve dubbed the site, which will be redeveloped in a heretofore unknown fashion, the “Southern Gateway to Gwinnett.”

“I want people to know they’ve arrived in Gwinnett County just from what sits on this site,” Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash said.

In October, Gwinnett spent around $1.2 million to buy a 35-acre tract of land near the tennis center in neighboring DeKalb County. It then turned that property over to the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, the state authority that owned the tennis center and gifted it to Gwinnett.

Gwinnett officials held a ceremony and celebration Tuesday afternoon at the Stone Mountain Tennis Center, which hosted tennis events during Atlanta’s 1996 Olympics. The venue will be torn down and redeveloped. TYLER ESTEP / TYLER.ESTEP@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Knowing that renovations to the tennis venue — which had issues with flooding and concrete instability — would cost millions, the county planned all along to demolish it and seek a private sector partner to redevelop the entire site.

It’s the first time Gwinnett County has ever used such a strategy. And the plan is starting to become reality.

Demolition will take several months, county officials said, but should be complete by sometime in early 2018. The county has not yet issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the site, which will formally invite developers to submit their ideas and, eventually, lead to a competitive bidding process.

But Nash said the county won’t have to wait until demolition is complete to issue the RFP, meaning the process could get rolling soon. And the site’s redevelopment has the potential to be part of big changes in southern Gwinnett.

World-famous haunted house Netherworld has done business in the Norcross area for years but plans to move next year to a site one-eighth of a mile from the tennis center property. Nash said that, in addition to the 24 acres on the tennis center property, there are about 500 acres in the area that are “ripe for redevelopment.”

“I don’t know what [the new development] is,” Lynette Howard, whose Commission District 2 includes the area, said Tuesday. “But it’s going to be better than I could ever dream.”

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